So this article would've probably been best curated during the throes of the pandemic when everyone was spending time alone, but I'm a bit late to the game. However, I feel like this is something that many “social animals” struggle with, and it's because they never had solitude, even though it's pretty healthy mentally.
My 10-year-old struggles with this as an only child. It seems like she fears loneliness for some reason, but often she proclaims that nothing in life is “any fun” doing alone. I disagree, and as an only child, I never felt the need to be constantly surrounded by my friends. I gave her a massive list of things I used to do as a kid that I loved doing alone, and she doesn't seem interested in much of it – it got me thinking about how I need to teach her to enjoy spending time alone. By creating new habits like spending time alone. 🙂
Why It's Important To Go Solo Sometimes
Introverts worldwide would agree that there are countless benefits to spending time with yourself. Extroverts may be screaming internally at the thought. Either way, this isn't about eliminating your social life. Especially after the pandemic, it's more important than ever to help us heal our spirits. But spending time alone is actually good for you, too.
Discovering who you are ranks pretty high as a list component. Alone time allows you the chance to check yourself. Look deep inside yourself and uncover things that you may have buried – good or bad – for some reason, most likely, busyness.
Increase your creativity by being in an under-stimulatory environment for a while. My mom and I used to laugh at how we'd get together to visit and make art, and then we'd each get so profoundly connected to the making that we forgot to do the visiting. Sheer silence for hours. It trained me to prefer silence when I'm making art. I don't need a body there in the room with me. I need to spend time silently creating.
Reduce stress by eliminating stressful triggers. Ultimately, learning to be alone and enjoy it will reduce stress. By not worrying about what other people are thinking or doing and not having to concern yourself with making and maintaining social interactions, you take the pressure off yourself. You can just “do you.”
Understanding yourself better will improve your relationships in life. Not just with friends or lovers but with everyone. You'll begin to understand which relationships are meaningful, which are toxic, and which are there to fill a void. You'll become more emotionally invested in the relationships that are worth something to you and find yourself neglecting any others in favor of… ? Spending time alone and enjoying it.
How I Learned To Love Solitude
Have you ever asked your kids for a moment of silence so you could “just think for a second”? It's impossible to think of practical solutions to problems when your brain is constantly bombarded with incoming information – electronic or human. Solitude can help you solve problems more effectively.
I got used to working in solitude in 1996 when I started my first remote, online job for Neopets. I stayed with them for five years after that! Soon, I learned how easy it was for me to become the ideal remote employee because I was really good at being effective at working from home.
To this day, I am most efficient at solving problems (primarily related to work) when my daughter is sleeping, at school, or with friends, and my hubs is out of the house. It's not that I don't want to be here for them if they need me or that I don't get up to stretch my legs and swap some laundry—I definitely do all that—but it's because of the time I get silence and solitude being so much more productive when it comes to solving problems, that I can afford the time to get up and do other things every hour or so. I am most efficient when I am in solitude.
So, in what ways can you enjoy spending time alone?
So I've convinced you there are benefits, and you're ready to dive in! Spending time alone doesn't have to mean sitting in silence without distraction or meditating for an hour (though those are both viable options if they suit you).
- Find your passion hobby. Pick up an old one or discover something new.
Doing something you love is the most fantastic way to pass the time. Maybe you used to do something like fishing, painting, woodworking, embroidery, or even coloring. Or, it could be something you've always wanted to learn how to do.
Engaging in a hobby you enjoy can help you explore your interests and passions, leading to a deeper understanding of yourself.
Use your alone time to explore your creative side. Whether writing, painting, or playing an instrument, using your hands and imagination can be a great way to relax and express yourself.
Maybe it's something you enjoy, but your partner or friends hate it, so you don't even have anyone to ask. Do it alone! Having a hobby that you can do alone allows you to pursue it whenever and wherever you want. You don't have to rely on anyone else's schedule or availability. Plus, you can develop a sense of independence and self-sufficiency by engaging in a hobby and spending time alone.
If it makes you happy, you won't ever feel like it's an obligation. Some people find that being alone allows them to focus more deeply on their hobby and fully immerse themselves in it. But making time for something you love is always a good choice.
- Journaling through your thoughts. The benefits of journaling go far beyond just getting things down. The mental health benefits are absolutely astronomical. If you've never journaled before or think you'd not enjoy the way it “has” to be done, try it again.
Journaling can help you to identify patterns and trends in your thoughts and behavior. This can be a valuable tool for problem-solving and decision-making.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you better understand yourself and your behavior. This can lead to increased self-awareness, which can benefit personal growth and development.
Bullet journaling can help with habit trackers and mood trackers, and even just long-form writing in the same book. I can release stress, confusion, and even negativity once I get it down on paper. And the best part of bullet journaling is that it's not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. You decide what you need to get out of it and only do that.
Journaling can serve as a memory aid, storing important events, thoughts, feelings, and ideas you can refer to in the future. Keeping a journal can be a way to document your life and a great way to look back on the past and reflect on the memories and lessons learned.
Spending time alone with as little as 15 minutes each morning with your breakfast beverage of choice, or even 15 minutes at night before bed, can make a significant difference.
- Exercise. You don't have to go hardcore, but try setting some small, reachable goals, like maybe just 15 minutes of walking—alone—every day. While walking, try not to think about things, enjoy the weather and nature, and truly experience your environment. It doesn't matter if you live in a big city or in a small town. Just go for a walk.
Research shows that most people who exercise do it for physical reasons. A large number of people will tell you that even though that's why they started, the benefit of more mental clarity was a “side effect” they were pleasantly surprised to achieve.
- Meditate. Meditation is a great way to help reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and calming the mind. Meditating with others isn't practical, so it's great to learn to do it alone!
The most significant benefit is that it can help improve focus by training the mind to be present and non-reactive to distractions. Success takes practice, so don't get discouraged too quickly.
Meditation can also increase self-awareness by helping you observe your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without judgment. It can improve emotional well-being by reducing negative and increasing positive emotions. Regular meditation practice can also increase compassion and empathy towards oneself and others.
Let's not forget the physical health benefits such as lowered blood pressure and improved immune function. Studies have shown the positive effects on chronic pain, too.
Additionally, It can help improve sleep by promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety. As simple as finding a quiet place to sit and focus on your breath, or you can try a guided meditation app. I'm obsessed with Calm. (So is my kid!) One of the coolest things is that they partner with businesses to offer their app/service to employees! If you or your company want to learn more, you get a free lifetime membership just for talking to them about the options.
Meditation is something I find myself doing more in the winter months because I tend to suffer from seasonal depression. Making the most of winter after the holidays are over is really important for mental health!
Spending Time Alone Is 100% Beneficial
As you can see, spending time alone can be beneficial for several reasons. Self-discovery, reflection, and personal growth are key. Alone time also serves as an outlet for stress and anxiety and improves focus and concentration.
Meditation can increase self-awareness, improve emotional well-being and physical health, improve sleep and increase compassion and empathy. Engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy during your alone time can also foster creativity and independence.
Solitude can be very productive in solving problems and help you understand yourself better, improving your relationships. It's not eliminating your social life but finding a balance between spending time alone and being with others.